Mott’s strikers send out pickets

September 3, 2010

Brian Lenzo reports on the ongoing strike at a Mott's plant in upstate New York--and how union members are taking the fight for justice to the parent company.

WILLIAMSON, N.Y.--More than 300 manufacturing workers at the Mott's plant marked their 100th day on strike with signs of hope on August 30.

Early in the day, Workers United members from the nearby Xerox plant walked the picket line, giving Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) Local 200 workers a break from the August sun. Teamsters members, sheet metal workers, teachers, city bus drivers, postal workers and union members from around the Rochester area, as well as the fledgling Mott's Strike Solidarity Committee, joined in throughout the day. It was the largest turnout by supporters since the early days of the strike.

Supporters, family and friends joined the strikers for a big picnic directly across from the Mott's plant, in a building rented out by the union that serves as the strike headquarters.

But there are interesting developments taking place away from the Williamson picket line.

Late last week, the union sent members to Chicago, where they set up a picket line in the rail yard outside of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group's (DPS) second-largest production plant. According to Local 220 President Mike Leberth:

Strikers on the picket line at the Mott's plant in Williamson, N.Y.
Strikers on the picket line at the Mott's plant in Williamson, N.Y.

Dr. Pepper Snapple products bring their sugar in using rail cars. We were able to stop the cars from going in for a bit. We set up a picket in the rail yard, and the railway workers wouldn't cross our picket line. That stopped the sugar from coming in for a couple hours.

So the company started bringing in the sugar using non-union truckers, but it takes about five tractor-trailer loads for every tanker they bring in on the rail car. We slowed them right down to a crawl.

The union has also sent picketers down to DPS corporate headquarters in Plano, Texas, where the CEO also lives.

Leberth thinks this strategy is having an effect. "Lane Hancock, one of the guys who is in charge up here in Rochester, he lives down in Plano. We leafleted his neighborhood and let them know what a scumbag this guy is...If they know we're coming, the cops and security guards will meet us before we even get out of the cars, so it seems like they're nervous about us."

However, there are no signs DPS is willing to come back to the bargaining table beyond word-of-mouth rumors. The union is waiting for a National Labor Relations Board mediator to rule on the merits of its unfair labor practices claim.

DPS is a large, super-profitable corporation that seems determined to exploit the recession in order to drive down wages and slash benefits, not just for its workers, but also for the greater Rochester community and beyond. It will take more pressure from the union, more pickets, more solidarity from other unions and more support from the Rochester community to make them back down.

Union member and Mott's worker Gerard Moran summed up the feelings of many on the picket line: "None of us want to be on strike, but sometimes you've got to draw a line in the sand. If we didn't do it now, what's going to happen next time? We have to make a stand."

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